Our one day of devotional love is fast approaching. On Valentine’s Day, people will show their love and affection for others with cards, chocolates, flowers and gifts from the heart. “On Valentine’s Day, we pay special attention to those important to us, acting in some way to show our loving dedication,” says Molly Davidson, Purple Yoga instructor. “In the Bhakti Yoga tradition, every day is Valentine’s Day.”
According to Molly, the word Bhakti comes from the Sanskrit verbal root 'bhaj,' and translates into English as 'devotion.' Though an adequate translation, the word bhakti is more than just a feeling of affection. Bhakti is linked to action. A better translation might be 'devotional acts.' She says, “Bhakti is about work done in a spirit of loving dedication.” Bhakti Yoga engages people in acts of devotion, which in turn, engages the heart. It is through the heart (the practice of devotional acts) that we feel connected to ourselves, to family, community, to nature, and to the divine.
Although Bhakti Yoga is a lesser known practice at Purple Yoga, Molly offers a Bhakti Flow class on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. at the Long Beach studio. It is a heated vinyasa class, which begins and ends with the chanting of the OM. Molly also offers a mantra for her students and includes her knowledge of Bhakti philosophy. “I want my students to experience the potency of mantra and be introduced on a deeper level to yoga philosophy. Just hearing or chanting certain Sanskrit mantras can have a powerful cleansing and healing effect on the mind and body. Yoga philosophy is just as powerful. It can completely change the way you see the world.” In this way, the practice of Bhakti yoga is the practice of devotional acts, which include chanting a mantra and attending to yoga philosophy in daily life.
Molly is no stranger to the Bhakti Yoga tradition. She trained and taught at the Laughing Lotus, a yoga studio in New York City, and there she was introduced to chanting and kirtan (call and response chanting), the primary practices of Bhakti yogis. She also took a workshop from Raghunath (New York), in which he explained a little bit of Bhakti yoga philosophy. “It blew my mind. I decided then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life learning about Bhakti Yoga.” Her personal practice includes: regularly attended yoga philosophy classes, and daily meditation and mantra chant on japa (prayer) beads.
In Eknath Easwaran’s translation of The Bhagavad Gita, a book of yoga philosophy, it states, “Even love and devotion can be cultivated through regular practice; they needn’t be regarded as mysterious forces, divine gifts of the spirit.” Looking for a recurring way of love and devotion, Purple offers two Bhakti Flow classes. Join Theresa Ballou-Devi every Friday from 4:00 to 5:10 p.m. at the Fullerton studio or Molly Davidson every Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. at the Long Beach studio. Roses are red, and heated vinyasa classes are, too. I’d prefer a Bhakti Flow class, how about you?